"I will take the ADD and you can keep the bipolar"
August 21, 2013 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Developers and Depression, a talk by Greg Baugues, co-founder of forum Devpressed.
posted by Memo (10 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for the post. Worth the view.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:41 PM on August 21, 2013

Amazing. Quite close to home.
posted by greenhornet at 11:02 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there a transcript anywhere?
posted by rouftop at 11:33 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

rouftop: "Is there a transcript anywhere?"

I was unable to find one but this blog post is a summary of the talk.
posted by Memo at 5:26 AM on August 22, 2013

Yeah, this is accurate for a lot of people who work in head-space.

"What if taking away the depression (or the medication) will take away what allows me to do what I do so well?"

This is a scary, scary thought. This is coming from someone who was able to figure out that the two medications I was prescribed to deal with pain from a back injury made me completely incapable of doing my job, but either one alone merely reduced my capacity to a manageable level.
posted by plinth at 5:39 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

It may not apply to this specific talk, since Greg has been doing this before he gave the talk, but the overarching shift in which he began to publicly share his story and provide this kind of encouragement to the broader developer community was incredibly courageous and loving.
posted by scunning at 6:28 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

"What if taking away the depression (or the medication) will take away what allows me to do what I do so well?"

This is exactly what happened to me, on three different medications.

Once upon a time, I was a developer, with a story that was painfully close to the intro to this video. I was pretty decent at it, and frankly this industry was a great match for me, since being a decent developer means that you can get away with a lot of things which would be absolutely career ruining in any other vocation. Especially in the mid to late nineties.

So you're a kid who dropped out of highschool because although you could fake out being a good student, you failed every single class because it turns out that showing up is a component. That's fine, whatever. That time was better spent learning C (it was the nineties, and this was a reasonable thing to do in the nineties - I guess today you'd learn ruby). So you lie about your age, talk yourself through an interview and get yourself hired, and you do absolutely amazing things for about six months.

And then it all falls apart, and nobody can really work out why. Meanwhile, you're melting down, and nothing is even close to holding together, but this is a fucked up industry, and you can actually get away with that. But, at some point, you stop coming into work for long enough that you get fired. That's cool, it turns out that you and your roommate can pay the rent on unemployment, and so we'll just code 8bit demos and write music. Fuck everything. Pick up freelance work here and there, until you accidentally fall into a job (if people know you're a developer, and it's a boom time, you'd be amazed how you can end up literally falling into jobs - feast or famine, right?), repeat for a few years.

So whatever, it's now 1998 and this is the dotcom boom, so you get on a plane, and go and hang out with other crazy developer friends in eastern europe, and you do really amazing things for about six months, but after that the whole thing just falls apart, because you can't cope with getting out of bed anymore, and so eventually you wear out your welcome there and skip to another continent. That's okay, it's been six months anyhow, and your feet are getting itchy.

Four countries and two engagements later (including being banned from canada - I think I'm still banned from canada!), you end up back home, having to face everyone in complete and total shame. It's now 2000, my ex-fiance who thought I was jesus levels of awesome six months ago and now realized that depressedjaymz(tm) is boring as shit, and never leaves the house, and is broke as shit because I've now not gone to work for six months.

Somewhat suicidal, and cutting the shit out of myself every night - which in your early 20s is a terrible habit - I recognise the sign that everything has gone terribly wrong(tm) again, and so I leave town - because the town is obviously the problem - abandoning my lease as usual. Even if you do have money, if you do this enough you'll find you can't actually find anyone to rent to you anymore, and I didn't (I couldn't get it together to go and apply for unemployment), and that's when I find that I went from making six figures to sleeping in a park in the next state within the space of six months.

I'm really good at leaving town, though - at this point the longest I've lived anywhere, in my entire adult life is six months - and this is not without benefits. People tell stories about how exciting and awesome your life is (this still happens), and they're right, but there is some clarity you get when you're sleeping in a park in sydney, that something may have gone terribly wrong.

So, because I'm in australia, and I can do that, I end up at a doctor, telling bits of this story, and so I get put on a drug - I couldn't even tell you what it is anymore. And three days later, I can no longer understand computers, math, or music anymore. These being the only things i care about in my life (still today), I stop taking that shit, and I try something else. Almost the same effect, but also with crippling physical side effects. So fuck that shit, right?

At some point, I burned enough bridges that I now work in infrastructure (enterprise devops, oddly), but fundamentally it's still the same - the exit interview at my last job, where I was of course fired after not coming in on time for three straight months, had the familiar phrase "everything was going so well, and no-one can understand why the situation stopped working". At age 34, every job I've ever had has ended with some variant of that phrase.

Of course, if you do this for long enough, some other things will catch up to you - and two of them did, for me, one with the local tax office, and one more personal (familiy illness that isn't mine to share). The former of these means I can't lose my job now, which is an interesting situation - last time I was in that situation, I handled it by going to work drunk every day, but I ride a motorbike to work now (never learned to drive a car, so this is new to me!) and so I can't really do that. So crash the motorbike one day, mostly because I was riding to a meeting and was bored and thought i'd see what it's like to crash.

Manage to not get evicted, and get three months off paying the tax office because i'm in hospital from crashing into a wall, and then end up in another job doing awesome things for contractor money, and so you power through it, because taking the meds means I can't go to work, which means I'm the sort of bankrupt where they arrest you, but not taking the meds means that eventually I'll die, but then that might be okay. I always thought I'd be dead by now anyhow, so I'm doing better than I expected.

Which, in my longwinded way of getting to it, is the point - one of the actual real world side effects for a bunch of people I've talked to, is because of actively making bad decisions, if the meds stop your income, you can't just opt out because fuck having savings when you're manic - that money is for getting on planes and getting the fuck out of here. But now you're trapped, and there is no way out that doesn't involve grave consequences. And you know the next loop is coming, and what the fuck happens then? All you can do is hope you can dig out of the current hole enough so that the consequence at that point doesn't kill you.

But at some point, it almost certainly does. Everyone knows this, which is fine because you don't keep friends for more than a year or two, except for people who live in other countries. I have these two very close friends who live in america, and one day I will stop returning their emails, whcih I do about every year or so for a few months. Except that time, I won't ever come back, but maybe I just got tired of people.

That's the rule - the fewer people you keep in your life, and the further away you keep them, the less damage you do. It's all about reducing the collateral damage.
posted by jaymzjulian at 6:54 AM on August 22, 2013 [24 favorites]

Christ, thanks for this. I (kind of) came to grips with my depression after my mom died and I couldn't get out of the hole but watching this I now realize I've probably struggled with it since at least college— much of his college experience (short of the dropping out) matches mine. I started with Adderall a couple of years ago, paused for a while and started back up again this year. It's not perfect, but it works pretty well: it makes me more productive and that makes me happy, whereas not being productive tends to put me in a vicious circle.
posted by yerfatma at 7:01 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

(What I wrote on reddit re: their posting of this):
I have recently written about some of these issues on my game dev blog.

Cycles of Creation

Pride vs Self-Doubt

As I said in Cycles of Creation - I think discussing this is a very important issue in the developer community. I think it's quite common in the more acknowledged "artistic" endeavors, but programming is not just a science but also an art, and that means that depression can have a huge consequence on our motivation and ability to process and think. The more we acknowledge it, the more we can take steps, as a community, to address these issues and hopefully resolve them quicker and help those who need it to seek help sooner rather than later.
posted by symbioid at 8:07 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

transcript, subtitled video
posted by pmdboi at 7:58 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

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